"The Man for Others"
Jesus has one problem, though it is through no fault of his own. His problem is his perceived exclusivity. To so many of those inside the church, He is seen as their man and their man only. He is seen as the reward for having lived a good life, and the eternal salvation that he offers is meant only for those of whom He sees sitting in the pews each week.
To those who are wandering aimlessly about outside of the church, He is seen, again, as belonging to the churchgoer. To the lost, He is not seen as a refuge, a good Shepherd, a rock, a strong tower, a fortress, a father, a wonderful counselor, or as the Prince of Peace. Instead, He is seen as Jesus Christ, the Man of the church. This is most unfortunate, and woefully incorrect.
Dietrich Bohoeffer - a true prophet in the Biblical tradition of Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah – described Christ on countless occasions as “the Man for others”, yet we Christians put so much effort into turning the Jesus who died on the cross for all sinners (see, also, “Humanity”) into the guy who only cares about you after you have started going to church every Sunday morning. It was Christ Himself who said the following: “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinner” (Mt. 9.13); “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (Mt. 18.11); It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick; I have come not to call the righteous, but the sinner.” (Mk. 2.17); “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk. 4.18).
Based on His own words, there is no indication that Christ is only for the saved. Quite the contrary, He seems much more concerned with reaching the very people that the saved seem to want to keep (protect?) Him from. Christ never hesitated to involve Himself in the realities of this world. He never told the lepers to step away; He touched them, and healed them. He never asked the tax collectors to leave Him; He had dinner with them. He never cast aside the prostitutes; He embraced them, and saved them.
Christ was, and is, the enemy of dead religion. Just as it was in his day, so it is today that so much of our religion has become institutionalized, ritualized, cold, and dead. So often, sitting through a church service is comparable to drinking cold coffee – it may have been at one point hot and potent, but it is now difficult to stomach and should probably be thrown out. Christ would rather spend His time with five homeless individuals in the squalor of their daily life than He would with 1,000 lukewarm Christians. He calls us to be hot, on fire, and on the verge of combustion for God. The message He brings – the message we should carry with us always – is nothing if not shockingly radical. We are not called to seek the comforts of this world. No! We are called to follow Christ, who had “no place to rest His head.” (Lk. 9.58).
Following Christ is paradoxical in that it can often be the most uncomfortable and difficult thing a person can do, yet there is nothing more comforting or noble than this. Peregrin Took, in the movie “The Two Towers” (though not in the book. Another argument for another day) said, “The closer we are to danger, the farther we are from harm.” Such is the reality of following Christ. Often times it is difficult, uncomfortable, perhaps even fatal, but to live and die for Christ is nothing but gain. You may be close to danger whilst following His guidance, but you could be no farther from harm. After all, He tells us not to fear those who can only destroy the body, but to fear Him who can destroy the soul in hell (Mt. 10.28).
Christ is the Man for others, just as the prophet Bonhoeffer said, just as Christ’s life proves. He came, lived, taught, and died not for the righteous but for the sinner. It is altogether wrong to try to keep Christ for one’s self. Let us not forget the parable of the talents – the two men who brought back more than they were given by the Master were rewarded, but to the man who hid that which he was given, there was only weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do not keep Christ to yourself. Do not be a candle whose light is hidden. You have been entrusted with something of great value, and it is on your turn a profit with it. Do not bury your treasure in a field. No! Take it and reinvest it. Christ does not call on us to succeed in our efforts to bring others into the flock. He tells us only to take His message to them. That is all we have within us. We can only be the messengers. The rest is up to the saving power of Christ alone.